In The Know: Could future legislative action depend on SQ 779 results?

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Could future legislative action depend on SQ 779 results? Opponents of State Question 779 believe the state Legislature should be given another chance to address teacher pay and education funding next year. But passage of the sales tax increase next month will likely depend on whether voters believes lawmakers would get something done with another shot. A handful of teacher pay plans were proposed last legislative session, but none were successful [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about the education sales tax state question here.

Support for State Question on Farming Rights Seems to be Slipping, Poll Suggests: Support for State Question 777, which would make farming and ranching a constitutional right in Oklahoma, has slipped in recent weeks, according to a SoonerPoll survey commissioned by The Oklahoman. Two weeks ago, the phone and and internet survey of likely Oklahoma voters found support for SQ 777 at 49 percent. Support now stands at 37 percent, the paper’s Ben Felder reports. Forty-nine percent said they were against the state question and 14 percent remain undecided [StateImpact Oklahoma]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 777 here.

Education tax faces voters with history of saying ‘no’: Over the past two decades, voters have overwhelmingly supported questions asked of them at the ballot box — except the ones that ask to raise taxes. If the trend holds, supporters of a citizen-led measure to raise the state sales tax by a penny to fund education may find it difficult to drum up support, said David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “If (State Question) 779 passes, you can really point to it as proof that things have reached such a crisis situation in Oklahoma that Oklahoma voters are willing to buck the historical patterns and do something they have typically not done,” he said [Enid News & Eagle]. Read Blatt’s blog post on patterns in the success and failure of state questions [OK Policy].

Why we’re supporting SQ 780 and SQ 781: Oklahoma Policy Institute formally endorsed State Questions 780 and 781 in January, joining a wide and politically diverse coalition focused on reducing incarceration rates and addressing the root causes of crime. SQ 780 would reclassify simple drug possession and minor property theft from felonies to misdemeanors punishable by a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. SQ 781 would calculate the savings from decreased incarceration and distribute it to counties for substance abuse and mental health treatment. We believe that passing both questions is an important step towards a fairer and more sustainable justice system [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 780 and 781 here.

Taxes to the Ten Commandments: Oklahomans consider seven state questions on November’s ballot: Whether by mail or at the ballot box, Oklahomans will have tough decisions to make in November’s general election. In addition to voting for president and state officials, Oklahomans will consider seven state questions ranging from taxes to the Ten Commandments. State Questions for the general election were added to the ballot through initiative petition, which re­­­quires signatures, or through a le­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­gislative referendum requiring passage from the Legislature [Claremore Daily Progress]. See OK Policy’s 2016 Oklahoma State Question Guide here.

Hofmeister taps Broken Arrow school official to oversee state testing, accountability: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has named a Broken Arrow Public Schools administrator as the state’s next deputy superintendent of assessment and accountability. Janet Dunlop, who has served as associate superintendent of instructional services at BAPS since 2010, is set to join the state Education Department on Nov. 8. She will replace Kathryn “Katie” Dunlap, who is retiring after 10 months with the state [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Cited as a Leader in Transition to New Federal Education Law: Oklahoma is among the leaders halfway through the transition to new federal education law. The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is replacing the No Child Left Behind Act. It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 10, 2015, and all U.S. schools must comply for the 2017–2018 school year. ESSA returns several controls to states that the federal government assumed under No Child Left Behind. Oklahoma education officials say work with state lawmakers to pass bills on student testing and teacher evaluations put Oklahoma on the right path [Public Radio Tulsa]. Here’s what ESSA means for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

State budget cuts could burn rural fire departments: Rural firefighting department heads are concerned about the effect of state budget cuts on a primary source of their funds. “If the good Lord’s willing, you’ll have a little bit of time to respond and just enough equipment to handle the job,” Noble Fire Department Chief Bob Hall said. “You can’t afford to wait for more to arrive.” But that’s a possible scenario Hall and others are facing as the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry struggles to maintain its Rural Fire Defense 80/20 Reimbursement Grant program [Journal Record].

Medical marijuana backers prepare for 2018 vote: It will likely be two years until medical marijuana shows up on Oklahoma’s ballot, which gives supporters that much time to prepare a campaign. It also provides time for the opposition. Oklahomans for Health Chairman Chip Paul, who helped lead a successful signature-gathering effort this year that secured the proposal’s place in the November 2018 election, said he will start organizing in earnest after the presidential election. A 2012 medical marijuana proposal failed in Arkansas, and two measures on this year’s ballot have low support [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“If State Question 779 were to pass I’m sure the Legislature would be hesitant to do any additional funding for education. But if it fails, the Legislature won’t do anything.”

-Rep. Ed Cannaday (D-Porum), who believes the Legislature won’t take action on education funding next year, regardless of the outcome of the education sales tax state question vote (Source). See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 779 here.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank in America’s Health Rankings report on the health of women and children in all 50 states

Source: America’s Health Ranking

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What’s in the Native American Vote? In an election season that has been ripe with animosity and racism at the national level, one of the few positive and inspiring stories to come out of the 2016 race has been the surprising prominence of Native American communities and voices. This has been due, in part, to the coincidental timing of the landmark Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a story that has been frustratingly slow to receive national news coverage, but has nonetheless engaged the attention of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, former Democratic Party candidate (and current Hillary Clinton supporter) Bernie Sanders, and even President Obama [Democracy Journal].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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